Before and 10 minutes after: Gold Creek, a tributary to the Crowsnest River, contains multiple OHV crossings and is heavily loaded with silt and mud following a rain event as runoff enters from surrounding OHV trails. OHV use results in increased soil compaction, proliferation of invasive species, increased habitat fragmentation, and increased runoff of sediment into streams which negatively impacts water quality and fish habitat. Photo: L. Fitch, P. Biol.
Map: Designated westslope cutthroat trout critical habitat inside the proposed Castle parks.
"Of course, this issue extends far beyond the Castle Parks. All critical habitat as identified in the Order is protected," says Dave Mayhood, Timberwolf's Aquatic Ecologist. "The provincial governments' ongoing “open unless closed” land use policy is resulting in significant damage being done to streams containing westslope cutthroat trout. All OHV trails and roads destroying any part of westslope cutthroat trout critical habitat need to be closed and decommissioned. It's quite simple - it's the law."
Remnant populations of native trout now exist only in short, isolated headwater reaches of the East Slopes; just a small fraction remains of their historic abundance and distribution. A Critical Habitat Order was issued for the westslope cutthroat trout, Alberta populations, on November 20, 2015 by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under section 58 of the Species at Risk Act (Canada). This engages section 58(1) of SARA prohibiting a person from destroying the functions, features and attributes of all critical habitat identified in the Order. Penalties include fines of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment up to 5 years.